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The History of Most Precious Blood Church, Hyde Park. MA, USA -- published 1981; Chapter III.

Monsignor James J. Chittick 1888-1919

With the departure of the dynamic Father Barry, the popular founder of Most Precious Blood Parish and St. Raphael's School, there came to Hyde Park as pastor, a priestly gentlemen of diverse talents and extraordinary zeal, who was to guide the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Parish for no less than 31 years -- Father (later Monsignor) James J. Chittick. He arrived in Hyde Park on October 14, 1888, having previously served for four years as pastor of St. Peter's Parish in Plymouth, and, before that, for nine years as assistant to the famous Father Peter Ronan of St. Peter's Parish in Dorchester.

Born in Boston on December 13, 1850, James Chittick attended local public schools, entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Troy, New York, in 1869, and was ordained to the priesthood there by Bishop Francis McNeirny of Albany on December 20, 1873. His ministry to the people of Most Precious Blood Parish and his dedication to St. Raphael's School for more than three decades made him one of the most beloved pastors in the history of the Archdiocese of Boston.

An outstanding spiritual leader, Monsignor Chittick was ever a champion of the rights of the common man, and a fearless, lifelong fighter for the cause of Ireland. Since a large percentage of his flock was of Irish origin and formed the bulwark of his rapidly growing parish, he spared no effort in furthering the crusade for Irish freedom. In this connection one recalls that shortly before his death in 1919, a missive Pro-Ireland meeting was planned for Magnolia Hall in Hyde Park. He was invited to address the huge gathering, and being a dutiful priest he sought permission from his Archbishop, William Cardinal O'Connell. Not only was permission gladly given, but he was encouraged by the Cardinal to speak strongly and forcefully in behalf of the Irish cause.

Monsignor Chittick had an extraordinary devotion and charity toward the poor of the town, and he was genuinely respected and loved, not only by his own people but by members of the Protestant and Jewish communities also. He was known in more than one instance to have given the coat off his back to some unfortunate. Though kindly by nature, he could administer a reprimand, when necessary, and become thoroughly aroused if the occasion demanded it. In 1912, e.g., when excited discussions were the order of the day regarding possible annexation of the Hyde Park to the City of Boston (then the fourth largest metropolis in America), the issue was put to a referendum vote in the annual election. A non-Catholic clergyman in the town had urged his people to vote against the annexation because, he said, it would result in being dominated by the growing Irish Catholic population of the City of Boston. Apprised of this attack, Father Chittick spoke at all the Masses on a subsequent Sunday, urging an affirmative vote for annexation. In the year 1912 Hyde Park became part of the City of Boston.

With regard to the nascent school built by Father Barry, its growth and development were prodigious. So engrossed was Father Chittick in educating his youngsters, that for eleven years he operated a high school for girls, in addition to the grammar school and the area schools in Readville and Corriganville. Room space in the convent had to be made available for this ambitious project, and he himself often devoted four hours a day to teaching in this school. Particularly helpful to Father Chittick in the operation of the school was a young curate who came to Hyde Park shortly after ordination in 1889. He was father George A. Lyons, who had been ordained in Rome in June of that year, and who served faithfully in Hyde Park for seventeen years. (Subsequently, he was appointed Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools and become very prominent in the field of Catholic education. He died as pastor of Gate of Heaven Parish in South Boston. His brother was the celebrated Jesuit educator, Father Charles Lyons, S.J., president of Boston College and also of Georgetown.)

In 1891 Father Chittick spent several weeks in the hospital administered by the Sisters of Charity in Louisville, Kentucky, as he recuperated from a serious illness. To prepare for his homecoming, Father Lyons was in charge of the parish during his absence, raised $3,000 to present to the pastor on his return. It was with this money that Father Chittick then purchased land for the Corriganville school, which opened its doors in 1896 and served the children of that area of Hyde Park with great success both academically and spiritually. In fact the school became a nursery for many of Hyde Park's priestly and religious vocations. For most of it's existence this school had five grades (six for a while), was a "feeder" for the Central School, and, providentially, in 1954 became the educational nucleus for the newly formed St. Pius X Parish and briefly St. Pius X School.

In 1913 Cardinal O'Connell established a new parish in Hyde Park -- a "national" parish, not a "territorial" parish -- for the Polish speaking people of the area. Dedicated to St. Adalbert, the parish had as its first pastor Father Alexander Syski. A basement church was first erected, and the superstructure was completed in 1931 while Father Ladislaus A. Sikora was pastor.

In a comparatively limited work of this character, one could hardly be expected to deal in detail with all the priests who served in Most Precious Blood Parish. But tribute must be paid to the many curates, or assistant pastors, who so conscientiously and diligently exercised their apostolate in Most Precious Blood Parish, especially in the work of preaching the word of God and administering the Sacraments. Hyde Park from the beginning down to the present day has been blessed with dedicated curates.

Worthy of special mention is Father Francis H. Houston, who had the distinction of being both a young man from the parish, ordained in 1889 (his first Mass was offered in Most Precious Blood Church), and also a curate in the parish from the fall of 1901 to the summer of 1908. It was his older sister, Mary, who was the first young lady of the parish to enter the religious life, becoming a member of the Daughters of Charity at Emmitsburg, Maryland, on January 13, 1883. Taking the name, Sister Mary Theresa, she served for fifty-five years in religion.

Father Joseph V. Tracy (who was later to become a famous pastor of St. Columbkille's Parish in Brighton), served with Father Chittick for about six months, and Father Austin D. Malley for about a year (1898-1899), but little is known about the details of their ministry in Hyde Park. Father John J. O'Brien replaced Father Lyons in 1906, and remained until June of 1911, when he himself was replaced by Father Daniel J. O'Conner. In the Summer of 1908 Father Houston was succeeded by Father Edward J. Fraher. This brings us in our narrative to this pair of devoted curates, known and loved by thousands of Hyde Parkers still living, who worked so successfully in their priestly ministrations, under three pastors, all the way down to 1927, when they were transferred from Hyde Park within a month of each other.

In the summer and fall of 1909 Father Chittick replaced the original school that had been built in 1888, with a new 16-room school. The actual construction with all the appurtenances was not completely finished for several years, but it did serve the ever-growing number of pupils, and provide a more fitting site for continuing academic and spiritual excellence. In 1912 Father Chittick supervised the building of a much needed rectory, which serves the priests and the parish to the present day.

In recognition of his tireless apostolic labors, Father Chittick was raised to the rank of a Domestic Prelate on May 27, 1914, and became the Right Reverend Monsignor James J. Chittick. This was an occasion of unparalleled joy and pride for the people of Hyde Park. This man of God, said to have known by name about 90 percent of his parishioners, was a familiar sight in the town as he went about his pastoral errands of mercy with his horse and buggy. The horse was well named "Mercy" by reason of the nature of the priest's chief apostolate. But Monsignor Chittick likewise served as an unofficial but vigilant "truant officer", much to the discomfort of young people who might be avoiding their obligation of school attendance.

Mention has been made previously of the long line of scholarship winners from St. Raphael's School in the Boston College High School competition beginning in 1908. Prior to that time, from 1902 to 1908, the Archbishop had inaugurated a series of examinations for all parochial schools in the Archdiocese, in which contest both boys and girls were eligible. In the first year three of the four winners were from St. Raphael's School (Joseph Gaynor, Thomas Cullen, and Nellie Fennessy, who later became Sister Mary David of Presentation Academy in Louisville). It is interesting to note, too, that in the Boston College High School examinations of 1908, three scholarships were won by our students (Grover Tolland, Martin Padden and Joseph Dooley). In 1932 Grover Tolland's son (now Father Cyril E. Tolland) and his cousin, Fred Kinsman, won the Boston College High School scholarships. One of the three local winners in 1909 was Michael J. Walsh, currently a member of Most Precious Blood Parish, formerly the president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the recipient of an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Boston College in 1977.

In September of 1919, while making his annual retreat, Monsignor Chittick was stricken with a serious illness, and after five weeks of confinement, during which he exhibited great patience and devotion to our crucified Savior, he departed this life on the First Friday of November. William Cardinal O'Connell presided at the very impressive Solemn Funeral High Mass on November 11, 1919. Hundreds of priests, religious and lay persons crowded the church, while hundreds of others remained on the sidewalks outside, testifying to their love and veneration for this holy man who had so faithfully guided Most Precious Blood parish for 31 years. The eulogist, one of Monsignor's Chittick's dear friends and also his successor, was Father James F. Stanton, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish of Stoughton.

Shortly after Monsignor Chittick's death, the grateful parishioners, in his loving memory, contributed more than $8,000 for the beautiful Connick transept window which was installed on the Gospel side of the upper church. The local Council of the Knights of Columbus, to which he was so dedicated as its chaplain, changed it's name from Magnolia Council to Monsignor James J. Chittick Council. A public school in the Rugby district and a street in Corriganville also bear his name.

Administrator, builder, educator, pastor, and a true alter Christus was the beloved Monsignor Chittick, who, in three decades of priestly service, transformed the quiet rustic community of 1888 into on the the most active parishes in the entire Archdiocese.

Received from
Robert Johnson-Lally (09.12.2002) by Denny Chittick.
Archivist/Records Manager
Archdiocese of Boston.

2121 Commonwealth Ave.
Brighton, MA 02135

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